Best New Releases, May 26: Arlo Parks, Sparks, and more

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Arlo Parks

As the year draws toward its midpoint, each new music Friday’s list of albums to hear seems to keep getting longer and longer. This week we slimmed it down to a lean seven essentials, but still, that’ll take up most of your day, so you better get to listening! Among this week’s best bets are the return of an acclaimed singer/songwriter, an innovative rapper and jazz multi-instrumentalist, some nervy post-punk, some nervier experimental art rock and more. Hear and read about the best new releases this week.

Arlo Parks My Soft Machine

Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine

UK singer/songwriter Arlo Parks follows up her Mercury Prize winning 2021 album Collapsed in Sunbeams with a set of songs more deeply personal and stylistically eclectic. Working with collaborators that include BROCKHAMPTON producer Romil Hemnani, songwriter/producer Ariel Rechtshaid, and Frank Ocean collaborator Baird, Parks delves into a set of warm, electronic-tinged songs steeped in spoken word and ’90s-era trip-hop, with a late-night vibe that feels both intimate and adventurous. It’s an album of reflection as much as discovery, and a breathtaking set of songs at that. Stay tuned for more on this one.

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

Sparks the girl is crying in her latte

Sparks – The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte

Ron and Russell Mael’s streak of playfully innovative art-rock continues on their 27th album, one of the most eclectic sets of songs in their body of work—and that’s saying a lot. Charged-up glam rock, buzzing electronics, even techno-like arpeggios on highlights like “Veronica Lake” and various other experimental flourishes alongside some of their best songs of the 21st century (which is a high bar, given albums like Lil’ Beethoven and Hello Young Lovers). After more than 50 years of making music, they’re still delivering some remarkable art-rock, and we’ll have more to say on this one soon.

Listen/Buy: Spotify | Amazon (vinyl)

Water from your eyes everyone's crushed

Water From Your Eyes – Everyone’s Crushed

Brooklyn duo Water From Your Eyes aren’t a new band per se—they began releasing music back in 2016. But their first album for indie heavyweight Matador feels like a significant step forward, as their sound continues to evolve in a way that sees them weaving together strains of experimental electronics and industrial elements with pop songwriting. Moments like “Barley” and “Out There” are prime examples of this innovative fusion, finding more tuneful applications of their exhilarating weirdness as Rachel Brown’s vocals are the strongest they’ve ever sounded.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best new albums Guardian Singles
Trouble in Mind

Guardian Singles – Feed Me to the Doves

Back in March we premiered “Chad and Stacey,” the first single from the latest album by New Zealand post-punk group Guardian Singles, and from that moment we were pretty well psyched for what was to come. The band’s sophomore album is a blend of driving rhythms and hypnotic guitar jangle, big melodies and taut arrangements, weaving in and out of Go-Betweens-like pop shimmer and the off-kilter raucousness of The Fall. At times they even take flight into the soaring, rarefied air of psych and shoegaze on an anthem like standout “Metal Fingers.” A must-hear for fans of agitated, animated punk and indie rock.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best new albums Kassa Overall

Kassa Overall – ANIMALS

On Seattle-born Kassa Overall’s third album ANIMALS, the rapper and multi-instrumentalist redefines jazz rap by narrowing the gap between the two. ANIMALS is rife with features from both worlds: trumpeter Theo Croker and pianist Vijay Iyer alongside emcees like Danny Brown and Lil B. It’s a mesmerizing fusion of sounds, reverent to both jazz and hip-hop while looking beyond the obvious tropes, embracing a sense of unpredictability while delivering something adventurous and accessible. Still, it’s at its best when it removes the guardrails, getting wilder and trippier on a psychedelic standout like “Still Ain’t Find Me,” or the cinematic openness of “Going Up.”

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Turntable Lab (vinyl)

AJJ Disposable Everything review

AJJ – Disposable Everything

On their 10th album, AJJ deliver at once their most direct and least folk-punk-driven set of songs, with identifiably awesome cover art designed by William Schaff (who also did the artwork for this memorable masterpiece). Disposable Everything is an eclectic album of contemporary malaise, at once featuring some of their prettiest songs (“White Ghosts”) and some of their most buzzing and immediate (“Strawberry (Probably)”). In our review of the album, Ed Brown said, “the album is remarkably straightforward, trading in the band’s usual quivering mania, half-terrified-half-awestruck, for the frank, no-frills clarification that yes, we are all, indeed, completely doomed.”

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon (vinyl)

best new albums Stuck
Born Yesterday

Stuck – Freak Frequency

Change is Bad, the debut album by Chicago art punk outfit Stuck, was one of 2020’s most underrated album, occupying the twitchy and abrasive space between Omni’s caffeinated post-punk jangle and Jawbox’s cruel swing. With its follow-up, Freak Frequency, their knack for spindly, layered arrangements and meaty hooks juxtaposed against sandpaper riffs remains tight and locked-in, erupting into moments of anxious intensity, as on “Time Out,” or camping out in a low, rumbling rhythm on “Fools Idol.” The addition of saxophone draws them closer to the weirder extremes of post-punk and noise rock, though the band’s melodies remain strong as ever, riding that middle ground between pop music and nervous breakdown.

Listen/Buy: Bandcamp

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